Chronic apathy over fire NOC

Safety audit yet to begin in capital, officers rue lack of punitive action after offence

By Animesh Bisoee in Ranchi
  • Published 12.10.18, 12:05 AM
  • Updated 12.10.18, 12:05 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Jharkhand fire services headquarters at Doranda, Ranchi, on Thursday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Blaze safety is being miserly back-burnered in the state capital where Durga Puja organisers are busy splurging on spectacular theme pandals and illuminations.

And, this less-than-frugal fervour when it comes to fire preparedness rides on the serious lack of punitive measures against rogue clubs and committees in the past.

While the authorities concerned don’t sound convincing in their reply about safety audit at 200-plus pandals in and around the city, organisers seem content without the mandatory fire NOC just because they have a few fire extinguishers and sand buckets to flaunt.

Reminded of the 2016 tragedy when the Rs 35-lakh RR Sporting Club pandal on Ratu Road was charred on Mahasashthi morning, state fire officer R.K. Thakur said they had issued a safety advisory (see box). “We appeal to Puja committees to adhere to the guidelines to prevent accidents.”

Thakur, however, admitted that issuing advisories in the absence of the power to prosecute offenders made the whole exercise perfunctory.

“It is up to organisers to take the rules seriously. As of now, there is no plan to take legal action against any violator. We are not empowered to undertake any such drive. We can prosecute only if a directive is received from the deputy commissioner or the SSP,” he added.

That fire safety norms are being taken for granted again is evident as fire safety officers in Doranda and Audrey House (more than 50 per cent of the pandal belt comes under their jurisdiction) claim that very few Puja committees have applied for the NOC till date.

“Only two organisers out of 30 have approached us for no-objection. We have nevertheless issued an advisory to all,” said Doranda fire safety officer R.K. Singh.

Audrey House fire safety officer Dhruv Sah said not a single among the 90-odd organisers under their jurisdiction had sought an NOC.

Ranchi zilla Puja samiti patron Munchun Rai said most clubs and committees were aware of fire safety norms, but lack of “effective monitoring” made room for laxity and callousness. “The authorities should have a mechanism to enforce the rules,” he said.

Deputy commissioner Rai Mahimapat Ray said Sadar SDO Garima Singh would be entrusted with the task of ensuring fire safety at pandals.

SDO Singh promised inspection, but fumbled for an answer when asked how and when since barely 72 hours were left before the festivities take off. “We will carry out an inspection of pandals once they are ready,” she said.

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The advisory issued by the fire department

One entry point and at least two exits in every big pandal. Minimum height of doors (not cave like structures) 2.1 metres and minimum width 1.25 metres

Entry and exit must be clearly written in English and Hindi

All fabric used must be doused in fire-retardant solution

Synthetic and other inflammable materials must be avoided

Wide access road to pandal must to facilitate fire tenders

All electrical fittings and joints should be properly taped

Wires should be channelled using PVC conduits

Lighting should be done by a licensed vendor

Minimum distance of one metre between decorations and halogen lights inside pandals

Bursting of crackers strictly prohibited near pandals

Every pandal should have at least two carbon dioxide fire extinguishers and two dry chemical extinguishers

Volunteers should be trained in using the extinguishers

Adequate amount of sand and water must be stored near pandals